After a day in the mountains, few things can be more satisfying than a fresh, cold beer. Generally, however, one is hard-pressed to find something in the Alps not owned by Heineken. Therefore, I am supremely happy with a bottle from the region, but sometimes in life... the stars align...
I crashed the XX La Skieda in Livigno, Italy by joining Christian on his annual pilgrimage. I was uncharacteristically relatively uninvolved in the planning process. Going with a seasoned pro, I went with the flow and the festival current quickly carried me to an afternoon of live music, beer, and sunshine amidst the glistening, white Alps at Passo d'Eira.
The singer of that band turned out to be a fellow expat American, Gary, who now lives in Chamonix. I was there with Kevvy-Kev and the parentals a couple years ago over New Year's Eve so we started discussing the lively mountaineering village and, natürlich, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the microbrewery in town, Micro Basserie de Chamonix. In the one week we were in Chamonix, I think we went to MBC twice. It is classic microbrewery with good pub grub and a nice selection of proprietary drafts. Gary casually responded, "Oh yeah, the drummer owns that place." WHAT?!?!
Living in New York City, you often see movie stars and some people get strangely very excited about that, which I've never understood: it's like seeing a deer in Pennsylvania. The only notable celebrity in NYC that I saw (and MET and TALKED to and received a GIFT from in the form of a beautiful bottle opener keychain) is Sam from Dogfish Head so I was also excited to meet Matt, one of the Canadian owners of MBC.
To save the villagers from drowning in 1664, Matt and some other maple leaves created MBC. Go there if you're in France. Or in Switzerland. Or Italy. It's all close by American standards. Matt also enlightened me to the existence of a microbrewery in Livigno.
I had a bad experience with Italians and breweries... Sam from Dogfish Head, for whatever reason, collaborated with Mario Battali to create La Birreria in NYC. It had so much potential being on a rooftop in the Flatiron district, but is the antithesis of a relaxing, beer garden. Never go there. Trust me. If you do - it's your time and [a lot of] money... I went more than once to make sure the awful experience wasn't a fluke, but, as they say... Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Though I was scarred by this initial experience, I was definitely reassured by the fact that brewmaster Matt recommended it and he did not steer me wrong. 1816 Birrificio a Livigno (Via Pontiglia 37) is the "highest beer in Europe" as 1,816m is the elevation of Livigno - what a cool title to possess. Natürlich, Christian and I tried all the beers and the Helles was our favorite. Additionally, 1816 has some excellent pizza and at €4,90 for a Margherita is the best value I've seen in town. The icing on the cake was a one-man band playing American classic rock tunes. He played well and sang the lyrics so accurately that I could've sworn I was in the presence of another fellow expat, but his response to my, 'are you American?' was a confused, 'Ehhh??' Ha! Italians...